LONDON — J. Crew is steaming ahead with European expansion, with two stores planned for Paris — a new market for the brand — and a fifth store set for London.
This story first appeared in the November 5, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“Paris is one of the great fashion and consumer cities in the world, and lots of French customers are shopping in our New York stores — it wasn’t a difficult choice,” said J. Crew Group Inc.’s chairman and chief executive Millard “Mickey” Drexler in an exclusive interview.
He added that France is now among the top 10 countries for J. Crew’s online business.
Both Paris stores will be located in the Marais: The women’s unit will be the first to open, in March on Rue Malher, while the men’s store will follow in September, and will be located nearby. The women’s store will span a total of 2,260 square feet, with 1,830 square feet of selling space. Details of the men’s unit are still being ironed out.
Drexler said the women’s unit would have a “Brompton Road vibe,” referring to the brand’s store in South Kensington. That store carries J. Crew Collection as well a selection of other design labels.
At the Paris women’s location, J. Crew is currently restoring the historic wood storefront and uncovering most of the original stone walls in the interior. The furniture and fixtures will be a mix of rustic oak, unlacquered brass, mixed marbles and cast pieces. An original skylight room will be restored.
Drexler said the Marais men’s store would be similar to the J. Crew Liquor Store in New York’s TriBeCa, and carry the label’s Ludlow and Crosby suits, among other merchandise. J. Crew also has collaborations with Hugo Guinness, the New York-based British artist, the footwear designer Sophia Webster and the Saint James brand planned in conjunction with the launches.
In London, the brand plans to open its fifth store in a former HSBC bank space at 19 Marylebone High Street. The shop will span 3,000 square feet, and will open in the first quarter of next year. It will carry the women’s collection only.
Asked about customer pushback regarding the stiffer prices that J. Crew merchandise commands in the U.K. — they are on average about 20 percent higher than in the U.S. — Drexler was characteristically direct. “Every [company] in the world prices differently country by country, and that just drives customers to buy more in their home market. Tourists will buy J. Crew in New York if they can. Who doesn’t arbitrage prices? That happens worldwide. People arbitrage hotel and airplane prices online. They drive to New Jersey to avoid the New York sales tax.”
Looking ahead to the holiday shopping season, Drexler said: “Stores that need to promote — because they don’t have the right goods — will promote,” he said. “Christmas will be as promotional as it always is — way too [much].”